As an investigation into its finances has been turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the College of New Rochelle is hopeful that a five-year strategic and financial plan will bolster the school.
“CNR is here to stay,” said interim president Dr. Dorothy Escribano, who also serves as the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
“Are we out of the woods yet? No. Do we have a solid plan to bring us into a position of strength? Absolutely.”
As reported in CNY’s Oct. 27 issue, the college’s board of trustees accepted the resignation of Judith Huntington as president and named Dr. Escribano as interim president. Kevin Cavanagh, who has served as the college’s vice president of enrollment management, was named executive vice president for strategy and planning.
In October, the college announced that the board of trustees had been advised the month before that significant unmet financial obligations had accrued over a period of time. The board appointed a special committee of trustees to oversee an investigation into the matter. The trustees also engaged a chief restructuring officer to restructure and manage the college’s finances and hired a forensic accountant and outside law firm to perform the investigation.
“Out of the crisis comes opportunity,” Dr. Escribano said. “We really are looking at everything. We’re putting checks and balances in place. We’re going to be stronger…”
The extent of the college’s liabilities is approximately $30 million, the majority of which is from unpaid payroll taxes, according to Dr. Escribano.
A recent $5 million unrestricted donation from an anonymous alumna, along with nearly $2 million raised in six weeks, and the auction of four repurposed off-campus houses—a fifth was currently under bid—are helping.
Budget cuts of $7.3 million have been made. “At the end, it will be close to between $8 and $9 million dollars in budget cuts,” Dr. Escribano said.
“This spring, we have the breathing room to really look at efficiencies before we have to make further cuts,” she added.
In early November, 35 instructional staff, professional staff and administration reductions were made. The number reflects those laid off and those reduced from full-time to part-time employment but does not reflect some retirements that will take effect at the end of the semester, which is Jan. 7.
A second round of reductions is anticipated for the end of the spring semester in June.
Although the exact number of reductions is not known at this time, Dr. Escribano expected it to be about a third of what has already been reduced.
“If we can find some of that money in operational efficiencies, it’s going to reduce the head count of people that we have to not renew contracts for, for the next academic year,” Cavanagh said. “It’s not a number of people, it’s a number of dollar amounts that we’re looking to get to,” he said of the approximately $2 million.
“And we’re going to try to get to that a number of ways,” and have the least amount of impact on people as possible. “The likelihood is that there will be some” who will be impacted, he said.
In the cases of those who have resigned, “we didn’t fill positions unless they were necessary for accreditation or for the quality of the program,” Dr. Escribano said.
Additionally, “as we restructure, we’re looking to make our campuses more efficient,” Dr. Escribano said. “The best part about this is when I talk to Middle States and I talk to New York State, and we talk to our other accrediting bodies for nursing, our academic programs are quality, the integrity is there.”
“With these cuts, we haven’t cut academic support services for students. We made every decision,” she said, being mindful of, ‘how are we going to support students and how are we going to maintain this quality education?’”
Dr. Escribano said a national search for a new president would begin in February or March.
Founded by the Ursuline Sisters in 1904, the College of New Rochelle comprises four schools. The college also operates five satellite campuses throughout New York City.